I liked this movie from the very beginning, through the middle, and all the way to the end. It has two layers: the solid concrete story–the massive buildings, the jewelry, the money, the money, the money–overlaying the soft, tender story of aching longing for love; for real, satisfying, lifelong human relationship. Happily, the movie comes to the correct conclusion about what’s important, and even more happily, the principals don’t have to eke out a living on some Iowa farm when the dust settles. They still have barrels of money and they still get to live in Manhattan. Win-win.
The actors are all at the top of the game, and if there’s a weak link here, I don’t know who it is. It certainly isn’t Susan Sarandon, who is a slam-dunk as Jake’s mother, a real estate agent who deludes herself that the freight train of the oncoming housing meltdown does not have her name on it. (Great line: “Defending your father is like defending smallpox.”) Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko is great, although you can’t quite forget that this man is battling stage 4 throat cancer: this adds a poignancy to the picture it would not otherwise have. It’s a brilliant performance, and I am sure Oscar is watching.
Shia Labeouf as Jacob (Jake) Moore is a joy to watch. If every man emoted like this man does, there would be no divorce in America: “I miss you like crazy. I love you, Baby.” With what appear to be actual tears and a truly broken heart. You can’t blame Winnie for breaking his heart. He broke hers first. Carey Mulligan is fantastic as the understated quiet woman who knows what she needs and that this isn’t it. She doesn’t rage. She doesn’t weep. Importantly, she forgives.
There is a vast amount of money in this movie. Starting with the city-scapes of the billion-dollar NYC office buildings, into Jake’s six-million-dollar Manhattan apartment with his many computers and floor-to-ceiling windows, through the richly-decorated investment bank board rooms hung with priceless art, into the charity fundraiser peopled by gorgeous women dressed in jewel-toned satin and dripping with diamonds. It is luscious to see beautiful people in opulent settings.
Gordon Gekko (Douglas) has been released from federal prison where he spent 8 years for financial shenanigans. His daughter Winnie is dating Jake who works for a big-time Wall Street firm that’s up to its eyeballs in toxic paper. Stocks tank on innuendo and rumor, firms crumble, a bankrupt who was yesterday a gazillionaire gives up. I felt guilty.
First of all, because I had brought in Sam’s Club water instead of buying $4 movie-theater water, and secondly because during the Crash of ’08, I sat on my self-righteous bottom in my unmortgaged rental and thought–“Wow, too bad for all those people who are losing money! What’s for dinner?” with nary a thought that real people were really suffering. Were really afraid.
In the fiscal disaster of ’08, Jake plays hardball for love of his former boss, collapses into the arms of his arch enemy, the overly-tanned and delightfully corrupt Josh Brolin, then tells him where to put his Ducati. He then turns to the just-released Gekko for financial advice, not understanding quite so well that people are who they are, minus massive spiritual reformation. Sadly, as we learn, prison hasn’t done the trick for Gekko. It will take something more personal…something more valuable than money to get him to understand what counts.
There lies the tale of Gekko desperately trying to re-acquire his daughter who blames him for everything and with good cause. He loves Winnie, but he loves the Money Game more. Winnie loves Jake, but she loves her integrity more. What price money? What price love?
The soundtrack is not just background music conspiring with the photography to grab you emotionally. Rather, it’s a collection of songs fit perfectly with action, propelling the plot. I enjoyed the music-as-almost-narration immensely. I may even purchase the CD.
Love, happily, conquers all. Don’t leave when the credits begin to run or you’ll miss a lovely ending. I was not an Oliver Stone fan or a Michael Douglas fan when I entered the theater. Different story now. These guys put together a beautiful work of art. Go see it.
(moral/spiritual issues: unmarried couple kissing in bed once; unmarried woman becomes pregnant; the Lord’s name is taken in vain a few times by people who worship money and are under enormous stress. There are a couple of interesting statements about evolution: “We don’t understand how it happened, but it did.” Wow, there’s scientific method for you, but that’s a different topic.)